Being a college athlete has many advantages. For example, you can use it to help pay for your college education, make friends with your teammates from all over the country, and you get to play a game you’ve dreamed of playing collegiately since you were a kid.

However, one side that is overlooked is how athletes fuel themselves throughout the year. While what you need to eat varies from person to person, depending on their height, weight and position, most football players coming out of high school often find that they are underweight for their position and need to add a few pounds in order to be able to take hit after hit, during practice and in games.

For these players, it means eating in the school cafeteria and usually getting twice the amount of food you normally would. They are likely also mixing in a few snacks throughout the day in order to replenish what calories they have lost from lifting weights or during practice.

Being someone who has done this before, it sounds a lot more fun than it is as you are constantly feeding yourself even when you do not feel like eating anything at all.

On the other side, there are those who are maybe changing positions, or looking to slim down in order to move better and need to lose weight to fill into that position nicely. This can be a little bit harder to do, as you have to put out more calories than you take in while also making sure you give your body enough fuel to properly recover and don’t starve yourself of valuable nutrients, such as protein and amino acids.

This can see a dramatic change in eating habits, as you’ll have to cut out sweets and going back for more after a delicious meal.

For me, I found that I was at the right weight but could gain weight easily from the fried foods the cafeteria often served. I started to eat a chicken salad for at least one meal every day, something I had never done before, while also being mindful of the pasta dishes I was taking in to further limit the amount of excess carbs I was taking in.

For breakfast, eggs and a scoop of potatoes with a cup of gatorade and a cup of water was the way to go in order to fill myself up but not go over the top. Finally, I found that using the dragon bucks on my school card for a protein smoothie twice a week, subbing for lunch, was enough to get me through the day until dinner came around.

In the beginning, it was easy to go for the cheeseburgers, pizza, chicken tenders, and pastas. I found once I decided to commit to a plan of eating a salad a day, it got significantly easier as time went on, even becoming something I looked forward to getting.

My target weight going into the winter was to get down from 210 to 205, and I was able to do so by taking each meal one at a time and staying true to the habits I instilled into my life.

Colin Shields is a Wichita sophomore studying journalism. He is also a quarterback for the Blue Dragon football team

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